Silicosis epidemic on track to become the new black lung

A creeping epidemic of lung disease that is killing young workers has been uncovered by the Parliamentary Inquiry into the operation of the NSW dust diseases scheme.

The inquiry has found that the engineered stone products used particularly for kitchen and bathroom benches are implicated in new cases of potentially deadly silicosis in a rising number.

While State and Federal Governments attack unions and working conditions, workers are paying with their health, and even their lives.

Greens MP and Industrial Relations Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“Industrial diseases like silicosis are completely preventable, so it’s crucial to ask why we’re seeing a surge in cases among young workers.

“The return of this industrial disease is a significant failure of the work health safety regime, but attacks on union rights and the dismantling of state industrial inspectors is literally is killing workers.

“The situation is most critical in the manufactured stone industry, where workers are cutting to shape kitchen, bathroom and commercial bench tops and stone finishes without any dust suppression.

“Unions are being denied entry on work health safety breaches and the Coalition governments at a state and federal level refuse to fund sufficient workplace inspectors to enforce workplace safety standards.

“Despite having a set of laws designed to protect workers, there is nobody on the ground to enforce them.

“The Parliamentary committee has recommended an urgent taskforce be established by WorkSafe NSW in partnership with the union movement to audit these workplaces and ensure workplace safety.

“We’ve been told by the medical profession that doing nothing on this is quite literally killing people, we have a responsibility to act and act urgently.” Mr Shoebridge said.

Read the full report and recommendations: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2431#tab-reports

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